Family Finding With a Surprising Result

Shirley was only a baby when she entered the foster care system. Her parents were no longer able to care for her, and the only connection social workers knew of was her maternal grandfather, who was unable to be a placement option for her at the time. In our county, social workers work with Family Finders who help us with locating and notifying relatives.

FamilyFinding-lgNotification is a requirement under the Fostering Connections Act and in California is known as AB 938. In our county we work together to identify and notify relatives to the fifth degree of children placed in foster care. This includes maternal and paternal (even alleged) grandparents, aunts, and uncles, great-aunts and great-uncles, first cousins, and fictive kin.

I was the social worker assigned to Shirley's case. I gave the Family Finder the maternal grandfather's contact information, and she interviewed him first. Shirley's grandfather shared that Shirley had a maternal uncle that no one had known about, and the grandfather provided contact information for the uncle. The Family Finder immediately contacted this uncle and, in conversation with him, the uncle provided his mother's name (Shirley's maternal grandmother) and contact information. Shirley's grandmother was the link to the entire paternal side of the family. She provided several family members' names and contact information.

Each paternal family member Shirley's grandmother told us about was contacted quickly and, one by one, each family member offered to adopt her, even though they previously had not known Shirley existed. In total, over 20 family members, who had no prior knowledge of Shirley, independently offered to take her in without any hesitation. The Family Finder gave me a long contact sheet for me to follow up with. My work was cut out for me!

I was able to eventually place Shirley with her aunt and uncle as a foster-adopt placement. Both caregivers are excited to have Shirley in their lives and are currently in the process of adopting her. I'm really happy with how it's worked out. I think it's the best situation for Shirley and her family.


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